Not By Sight 2020

Eyes Wide Open

Major jazz-rock mover embraces sociopolitical agenda and infuses it with human factor.

It’s been a decade and a half since David Sancious was last heard of as a solo artist, upon the release of “Cinema” that, to many an ear, circled back, in terms of mood and style, to "Forest Of Feelings" which first found the American maestro strike on his own. Filled with melodies and sound effects, “Eyes Wide Open” is another aural movie yet, in the climate of today, it’s as far from the veteran’s oeuvre as possible – nuanced and angry at the same time. For all the musician’s regular romanticism, when he intones, “Can you see how we can save democracy?” – to the tune of “The Star-Spangled Banner” – one knows: this album’s different but soulful and, thus, sonically familiar.

There’s a riot goin’ on on this record, from the opening tumult of its title track onward, synthesizers’ anxious splashes taking veteran’s invective – aimed at America, with first lyric being “It’s not okay!” – way beyond otherwise ethereal fusion. That’s what the piece seems to offer further down the line, once his reserved rap has subsided and given room to a cosmic wigout, with a stereo panning to intensify the album’s overall claustrophobia. And that’s why cymbals-stricken, skittering keys rain on the humid atmosphere of “In The Middle Of The Night” – to chase away Sancious’ intimate whisper before his silken vocals lay the jazzed-up blame on those who shattered the dreams MLK used to have.

Kings’s words are heard, alongside news snippets detailing racist incidents, in “Urban Psalm #3” which would presage George Floyd-related events and juxtapose an organ-oiled jaunt with sociopolitical agenda, while “If” finally allows reveries to inhabit the space – as mapped by David’s electric guitar licks, economic and catchy. But if it’s hardly surprising, the same can’t be said of his exquisite acoustic lace in “December” that’s worth the price of admission alone – although this poignant flamenco-tinctured and accordion-flavored piece may fall out of the album’s thematic flow.

Still, whereas the funky instrumental “Flip It” tends to mix fun with disquiet, after its subaquatic boogie piano and taut bass loosen their grip defiant, albeit quite relaxed, chords come to the surface to unfold orchestral grandeur and bluesy sleaze. But then, the breezy elegy of “The Treehouse” lifts faux brass to heavenly fields that require no words to be eloquent and triumphant. In this context the deceptively dissonant, disjointed “War In Heaven” feels strangely logical – a fitting finale for such an alluring record. Unusual and riveting: an achievement even by David Sancious’ high standards.


June 20, 2020

Category(s): Reviews
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